1. NBA 2014 PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS - EAST [SPORTS]

    This blog is like 90% music and 10% other. Today, we have some of the “other” — it’s NBA playoff predictions from Caleb Sarvis. Eastern Conference predictions now, Western Conference predictions in a couple hours. Enjoy!

    It’s my favorite time of the year! NBA Playoffs have arrived and begin Saturday night in one the more interesting line ups I’ve seen in the last couple of years. I’m here to bring my predictions and offer what I believe matters in each series. After all, the NBA playoffs is always about two things: 1) Who is the best player in the series? 2) Matchups. I’ll post this preview in two installments; one for the East, one for the West.

    Eastern Conference

    (1) Indiana vs (8) Atlanta

    Fun fact: Both of Atlanta’s wins over Indiana came by double digits this year. This doesn’t surprise me. Indiana can’t score. They are 24th in the league in PPG but they are second PAPG (Chicago is 1st). Indiana has an elite defense, there’s no question about it, but they can’t seem to get the ball in the basket as frequently as a title contender should. I believe in Paul George and Roy Hibbert, but I have no faith in George Hill. Lance Stephenson might light it up for a game or two, but he also might stink it up for three games or four. On the other side, Paul Millsap was quietly one of the best offseason pickups this year. The Teague-Millsap-Horford triangle could outscore the Pacers struggling offense, though I find the odds against them.

    PREDICTION: Pacers in 6.

    (2) Miami vs (7) Charlotte

    Neither of these teams are the same team they were a year ago, but that might be a good thing. Miami has played about 30 games without Dwyane Wade this season, and still managed a 54 win season. Why? LeBron James. But other than that, Miami has a solid offensive identity. They are more than willing to share the ball and have more depth on the bench than they know what to do with. Charlotte is continuously growing, and the Kemba-MKG combination is coming into form. Factor in the addition of Al Jefferson (greatest offseason pick up this year), and the Bobcats could sneak in a win, especially if Miami doesn’t switch off “coast-mode.” The Bobcats aren’t going to crash the offensive boards as a way to limit Miami in transition, allowing Miami to hide their greatest weakness. My matchup to watch? Jefferson and Bosh.

    PREDICTION: Heat in 5.

    (3) Toronto vs (6) Brooklyn

    Despite the seeding, I think this is the most difficult matchup to predict in the East. Toronto has proven themselves to be a top seed in the East. Kyle Lowry has proven himself to be one of the top point guards in the league, and like Monta Ellis, he just needed to find a system that worked. Demar DeRozan and Terence Ross can explode at any point, and Toronto could easily shoot their way to the next round. They are top 10 in the league in defense, and top 13 in scoring. This could happen. But Brooklyn has been the hottest team in the East since January 1st. They’ve proven they can hang with the best, and despite losing Brook Lopez, they’ve been great. I think at this point, Toronto is the more talented team, but experience means something.

    PREDICTION: Nets in 7.

    (4) Chicago vs (5) Washington

    Chicago has the best defense in the league, and also has the worst offense in the league. Trading away Luol Deng was a move for the future and a solid business decision, but it took away some of their fire power. I think Joakim Noah, despite my overall distaste for him, has been the best center in the league this year, and DJ Augustin has come into his own. Taj Gibson is the man and Thibs never backs down. That said, I mentioned before that basketball is about matchups, and if I’m Washington, I’m much happier about this matchup than I would’ve been if we were facing Toronto. Nene and Gortat can battle down low with Chicago and Wall/Beal can handle the perimeter. Washington is shaky, but expect them to rise to the occasion. Bold claim? Trevor Booker aka La Bibliotreva (you’re welcome) is going to average 15 rebounds. Bolder claim?

    PREDICTION: Wizards in 6.

    Check back in a couple hours for the Western Conference predictions!

     


  2. SEACATS - “UR NEW BF” [MUSIC]

    Just in case you didn’t get enough capitalization earlier this week with Missoula’s BOYS, today we give you Kelso, WA’s SEACATS. They’re on Fin Records, which you may recall one of last month’s features is also on (see: Lures). Hooray for cool labels!

    SEACATS, then. Just two hours and a letter swap away from SeaTac, these guys have a very tongue-in-cheek aesthetic, and they play some stuff that sounds like an amalgam of early Weezer and pop-punk. Don’t let that scare you. I meant it as a compliment. I’m sure they’re tired of hearing “early Weezer” comparisons, but they’re definitely there, and as far as the pop-punk thing, that’s more noticeable in some of the songwriting (heartfelt, honest, personal) and vocal melodies (bouncy, catchy, SEACATchy even). Also, there’s always one point in this album (early in "Firewood") where the vocals (and the rhythms) are reminiscent of Dismemberment Plan.

    I saw SEACATS for the first time a few weeks ago when they played a show with Hurricane Season and Dedere, and even though the show was in an odd space (a fish’n’chip shop), I still wanted to buy the record afterward. I can’t stress enough how great a show they put on, complete with multi-instrumentalism galore. There’s no two ways about it: this band is fucking talented, man.

    You can check out the video for “Minus World” on their YouTube channel. It’s silly as all hell, but it’s really a great video. They’ve also got new music coming in the next month or so. Go to their Bandcamp and download the self-titled album in the mean time — it’s great, you won’t regret it. If you prefer a physical copy, head over to the Fin Records shop. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @seacatsband.

    Attn: more capitalization ahead! Our featured track from SEACATS is “UR NEW BF”. The songwriting here is a testament to their gift for melody. Here’s the first verse for example: Your new boyfriend, well he’s so controlling, but to be fair, he’s got his reasons to worry. We’ve got history, and I’ve got home field advantage, but I won’t try a thing, cause you know I am a gentleman. And that’s actually something you get a lot with this act — verses carried by melody. Many artists fall into a trap of forcing rhymes to kind of spoon-feed the listener, but allowing for a more fluid approach to songwriting works really well with SEACATS’ style. Instrumentally, this song is really nicely layered, and there is a surprisingly high amount of synths involved, which is dicey territory in this genre — synths can so easily sound cheeseball. Fortunately, SEACATS pull it all off with flying colors, mixing them in so they’re just right.

    You can find “UR NEW BF” as well as the rest of this month’s featured tracks on the free download of the GB! April 2014 Mixtape, the latest in our monthly mixtape series. Come back and get it on April 30!

     


  3. BOYS - “STARTING TO QUIT” [MUSIC]

    Last week, I spent a few days in the quaint town of Missoula, Montana, and while on the whole it’s nothing special, there are a few bright spots. One of those bright spots is the surprisingly bustling music scene, spearheaded by local favorites BOYS. Today, they’re on the blog.

    BOYS has a sound that catches you easily — it’s equal parts fuzzed-out, blues-influenced riffs, melodic vocal phrases, and surfy, 60s rhythm parts. Kamikaze is the latest proper album from BOYS, and it showcases their flexibility while maintaining a consistent cohesiveness. “Hogtied” and “Bernard Mickey Wrangle” are two pretty different tracks for example, one being more bluesy and the other more surfy, respectively, but they both fit in on the record, playing their roles.

    Since Kamikaze, they’ve released a couple singles that lean toward the surf-rock end of the spectrum, which I personally prefer over the blues-influenced stuff. You can find more of their music on Bandcamp, and you can like them over on Facebook.

    "Starting To Quit" is one of the latest singles from BOYS, and what it immediately brings to mind for me is the C86 compilation as well as the Sarah Records bands, progression-wise at least. The guitar tones on the track are nice and fuzzy, a common theme in BOYS’ compositions. My favorite parts are the second parts of the verses — I think the vocal melody there is way catchy. It’s also really cool how there’re those breaks for the guitar fills, like around the one minute mark for example. What’s cool about this track structurally is that you pretty much get two songs in one because what you assume is the bridge isn’t really a bridge at all — it’s essentially a second part that plays out all the way through. Wow! Two songs in three minutes! What a deal!

    You can find “Starting To Quit” as well as the rest of this month’s featured tracks on the free download of the GB! April 2014 Mixtape, the latest in our monthly mixtape series. Come back and get it on April 30!

     


  4. GHOST TO FALCO - “THE RUDE AWAKE” [MUSIC]

    Every so often our features tend to sync up with real-life events, and today happens to be one of those days. The featured artist today is Ghost to Falco, and not only is their record Soft Shield out now, but they’ll also be playing their record-release show tonight at Bunk Bar with none other than Aan. It should be great. Maybe I’ll go take some photos and post them next week.

    Ghost to Falco is a Portland, OR-based project, headed by Eric Crespo that has featured a rotating cast of members throughout the years. As numerous others have said before me, the music of Ghost to Falco is pretty hard to classify, traversing many aural landscapes through the course of a single record (and at times, a single song even). Soft Shield feels like the soundtrack to a psychedelic western — like if we took Easy Rider but traded the bikes in for horses. What sticks out to me is the ease with which Crespo can alter the momentum of the record yet keep it cohesive, rather than turning it into a herky-jerky album, devoid of flow.

    You can go get Soft Shield on vinyl via Infinite Front, or you can grab the digital download on Bandcamp. While you’re at it, go ahead and like Ghost to Falco on Facebook, and if you’re in Portland tonight, come to Bunk Bar and catch the show!

    While a lot of Soft Shield is tense, “The Rude Awake” is the epitome of that tension. It opens with some low feedback, before descending into anxious kicks and a psychedelic, distorted guitar riff. This distorted guitar becomes the main vehicle to drive along the tension in the tune, sticking to a scale wrought with minor tones and a slight dissonance. My favorite part of this tune is the synth that comes in after the bridge to help fill out the low-end. It’s like a little saw synth, and it doesn’t do anything too complex, but it fits perfectly and really helps complete the tune.

    You can find “The Rude Awake” as well as the rest of this month’s featured tracks on the free download of the GB! April 2014 Mixtape, the latest in our monthly mixtape series. Come back and get it on April 30!

     


  5. FLARE by SHANE BYSTROM [WRITING]

    Today we’ve got an original short story from Shane Bystrom. Enjoy!

    When there were only 12 logs left the boy turned to his father, a burly black mound beside the bonfire, and asked, “Are we going to be okay?” His father was broad-shouldered and bearded and carved from rosewood. He turned like a rusty cog towards his son, a collection of snow tumbling from the misshapen ledges of his leather coat, and for the first time that night, before answering that question, hesitated. His gaze flickered onto the bonfire and his eyes glossed over, their ornery light replaced by a reflection of the firelight itself. Then he snapped to, carefully sucked in an icy stream of snow and mountain air, and hammered out, “Yes.”

    He noticed his father was adding logs at an increasingly slower rate. He had never seen him stare the way he did at the fire, or stoke a flame or do anything, for that matter, with such breathless precision.

    The boy never knew that bones could feel like icicles, and gusts of wind like knives. He did know that 12 logs would not last longer than a couple hours in the hungry fire, and that the sun had set just six hours ago, which at this time of year meant it would not return for at least another six. And he knew every answer before this, always a Yes, was dried, rubbed, and salted in stubborn confidence, not so much spoken as shoved forth, with a frustration that the boy could even think to ask such a damning question.

    Three days before the boy had been asking him if he needed his extra wool coat but, preoccupied with salt blocks and gunpowder, he muttered “No, no, we don’t want to carry too much weight; we’ll be back by tomorrow morning, anyway.”

    The father radiated survival instincts. “My brothers know my hunting grounds,” he said. “They know my lands. They’re already looking for us. They’ll find us.”

    He stiffly added the twelfth-to-last log and something glinted into the boy’s peripheral vision: the worn dull blade of his father’s axe, sporting a root system of splintered wood, lying on the outer rims of the firelight, as if hoping to be granted a warmer spot within. This was perhaps the fifth time the boy had been crestfallen by the sight. Its handle lay splintered somewhere in the dark, bloody from four trunks’ worth of calluses, on hands leathered by 39 years of swinging, rubbing, twisting, gutting, knotting, salting, binding.

    Fifteen feet above the boy the wind battered the trees, shaking snow from their dried brown needles and dusting the pair with a twentieth layer of snow, which was a dozen more than they had of skin. The boy dared not move out of fear he would snap the frozen veins in his neck.

    There was some kind of toothed vacuum swallowing every one of his thoughts. He would wake up warm next to his father from broiling rays of early-morning sun – No.

    There was no reason for either of his uncles to show up at their cabin, let alone know they were gone for this long, let alone start a rescue party. But maybe, if they needed to borrow something of his father’s – No.

    The boy looked up to try to see stars, not because he wanted to spot them, but because his lurching insides, sensing their last moments, were writhing for action, no matter what it was, just to do something, just fight off the slow-rolling tsunami of numbness and ice. They weren’t ready to shut down; they had decades of life left in them, and all of it, sensing an early disposal, was compressing and brewing and firing off in all directions, and all from a body frozen stiff.

    Perhaps the axe could be reassembled with its handle, perhaps—

    You have already tried that.

    We could just try to make it to the cabin, if we bundle up, hold to the path—

    And freeze with more than 10 miles to go.

    The father cracked out of a shell of ice to rise, slowly, and shift towards the wood pile. He picked up the eleventh-to-last log, its own shell of frozen splinters nicking his bruised hands, and stared not at the fire but at the blackness consuming any and all forest just a few paces away from it. No more than a few feet from them was the lifeless vacuum of space, for all they knew. They were surrounded by the omnivorous maw of night.

    “Dad, I’m scared.”

    The father looked at his boy for the first time in a half hour, then his eyes flickered back to the fire once more. He set the log back upon its pile.

    “I am, too.”

    It was that moment when the sharp, distant howl of a wolf honed in on the location of the men, piercing through the soundproof blanket of night, a shooting star of sound, fiery, fleeting, startling.

    “Ah – shh, a wolf!” The father cried out instinctively.

    I know! The boy thought, but did not say. He shuddered.

    The snow-globe of forest around them shimmered with its echo as it swooped off and away into more distant corners of the universe.

    “That wolf will never know we heard his cry,” the father said, “But my, what I would give to tell him so.”

    “I wonder if he’s dying, too.”

    “We’re not going to die.”

    The boy sat silently, unmoved by the platitude.

    “It doesn’t matter if the wolf is going to die or not either,” the father said, “Because he has cried out. The great tragedy is not that he is going to die, but that he will never know if anyone has heard his cry. But the only greater tragedy would be if he did not cry out at all.

    Even though he doesn’t know it, someone heard it. Someone knows they were here with him, in this forest, tonight. He’s alive and could cry out with all his might, and did.”

    The boy remained rigid.

    The father sat in the orange hum of light, eyes flickering about like a pinball, before they slowed, steadily, to rest back upon the fire.

    The two animals hugging their meager fire were two small specks on a small mountain of an unmapped mountain range on one of a few dozen biting winter nights on their own small side of a small globe, and they knew they were going to die.

    The boy finally asked it again. The father shifted again, rusted again, covered in snow again, beaten, iced, tired, death drumming on his lungs.

    “Son…” he said.

    The wolf howled again, an octave higher this time. It filled the fatal bitter air above the treeline, and nestled upon the needles like hot air on ice.

    In a great crunch of leather and snow, the father shot up from his seat, rustled to the pile of firewood, and grabbed three logs. He piled them on top of the fire.

    He banked back to the pile of firewood like a hawk diving for prey and grabbed three more.

    “Dad, what are you doing?”

    He stacked them round like a leaning tower.

    The boy felt something swell in the back of his throat, roll up behind his eyes, and push out a pair of tears.

    “Dad, please, I don’t want to die,” he said.

    “We’re not going to die!” The father bellowed, hand in flame. “We are not going to die tonight!”

    In a moment, he was pressing the boy’s head against his stomach. “Stop weeping,” he said. “Be calm. Now, we’re going to burn this firewood because we have it, and now is the only time we have to burn it, so you need to stop sniveling and grab me two more logs.”

    The boy obeyed.

    “Alright. Now a couple more.”

    He did.

    They went on like this until the supply was depleted and every log nestled into a tower of blazing wood, nearly fifteen logs round, five on top. It was damn near an inferno and its loud, crackling shrapnel pierced the winter night and blew blankets of warmth over the father and son.

    The son was grasping the lapels of his father’s coat. His head, resting on his father’s chest, became heavier with each passing breath.

    The father gazed up to the star-drunk sky, where the bottoms of the treetops vibrated in orange light like the last gate to space, and hoped that the fire would soar with the same heights as the cry of that wolf. He gulped down his fear and it broiled in his stomach and thawed his blood. They rested well.